Taking it to the Gym



Long after the jet lag and the first day back to work, you slip into your favorite dive t-shirt eager to keep the essence of your most recent underwater experience pulsing through your mind and body. Proudly wearing large print and logos across your chest or back is a way of celebrating your passion for diving and sharing it with the rest of the world. Why not, beyond the obvious comfort of the cotton, diving is a recreational activity that quickly becomes a way of life.

Now imagine if you pulled on your favorite dive t-shirt and someone had changed the slogan to express other aspects of your lifestyle. Would you be as enthusiastic about your cholesterol or body weight in large print for the rest of the world to see? While scuba diving is a recreational activity almost anyone can enjoy; many participate with disregard for any number of unhealthy conditions. Exercising to enhance recreational activity is a positive way to take responsibility for your health, bring focus and motivation to a fitness routine and improve your overall diving performance.

Concerned more with what’s under your shirt than what is on it, ScubaFit™ simulates the physiology and biomechanics of diving in an exercise program. Yet, unlike a computerized concept, ScubaFit™ takes place in real time and every aspect of this synergistic workout stimulates your mind and body. The ScubaFit™ Workout applies timed intervals of functional body weight and resistance exercises with timed intervals of aerobic heart rate training zones. Therapeutic considerations for the knee, shoulder and low back are built into the program.

ScubaFit™ is appropriate for all fitness levels and can be refined toward specific goals. Consistent participation promotes weight loss, supplements lean muscle mass, prevents osteoporosis, reverses clinical conditions such as hypertension and high cholesterol and is an excellent pain management tool for all forms of arthritis. As a diver you will directly benefit with improved endurance on land and in the water, more stability on the boat and for shore entry, reduced risk of DCS, injury and illness, more efficient use of air, and ease of handling gear and tanks.

The best way to get started is to read through the entire program for an introduction to "interval training", review the exercises to determine which ones are best for you, and use the formula provided to determine your training heart rate or aerobic training zones.

Aerobic Training Zones

To maximize the benefits of ScubaFit training it is necessary to establish your heart rate training zones. These training zones are based on your maximum heart rate, which is the highest number of times your heart can contract in one minute. Working within 60% to 80% of your maximum heart rate is most beneficial for overall health. The 70% to 80% heart rate training zones improve the ability of the body to take in and distribute adequate amounts of oxygen to working muscles during physical activity. If you have heart conditions it is recommended that you measure your maximum heart rate by taking a max stress test administered by a physician. Otherwise, the most respected fitness standard for calculating your training heart rate zones is the Karvonen Formula developed by internationally renown physician and exercise physiologist, Martti Karvonen.

As soon as you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed, take your resting pulse by placing two fingers under the back corner of your jaw and counting your heart beat for one minute. This number is your Resting Heart Rate. Use it to perform the Karvonen calculation. Subtract your age from 220. From this result subtract your Resting Heart Rate (RHR). Then multiply this number by your training intensity of 70% (repeat the formula for 80%). Lastly, add your Resting Heart Rate back in to get your Training Heart Rate (THR). An example looks like this: 220 – (AGE) 45 = 175; 175 – (RHR) 68 = 107; 107 x 70% = 75; 75 + (RHR) 68 = 143 (THR). Using this example, while training in your 70% heart rate training zone, you will attempt to maintain a minimum pulse of 143 beats per minute. Your 80% heart rate training zone provides a maximum pulse of 154 beats per minute. However, if you are a beginner, work at 60% intensity until these higher percentages can be performed while still able to carry on a conversation.

ScubaFit™ applies the 70% heart rate training zone primarily to improve the muscle cells ability to utilize oxygen. This zone trains the heart to pump more blood, metabolizes stored body fat as the primary source of energy, is preferred for weight management, and is a healthful intensity in preparation for moderate scuba diving conditions.

Training in the 80% zone is most effective for overall cardiovascular fitness and the ScubaFit™ program uses this heart rate training zone to improve the body’s ability to transport oxygenated blood to the muscle cells and carbon dioxide away from the cells. This zone is also effective for increasing overall muscle strength. A training zone of 80% of your maximum heart rate is similar to the work of swimming against a moderate current.

Notably, the 90% zone, while sometimes used for short periods to train for high levels of athletic performance, is not considered a healthful zone for recreational activity. However, of considerable importance is that exercising with consistency in the heart rate training zones of 70% to 80% prepares you for a time when you may need to exert beyond usual conditions.

Training with a heart rate monitor is a great way to easily know if you are working in your training zone and is recommended for individuals with heart disease or pulmonary conditions. Rely on heart rate monitors primarily during aerobic intervals. During resistance training intervals your heart rate will naturally fall slightly below your target training zones.

The "Basic Six" Exercises

ScubaFit™ employs functional exercises, which systematically involve muscle combinations and sensory adaptations associated with body position and movement during scuba diving. Utilizing both dynamic and static positions, the ScubaFit program is designed around six basic exercises. Alternate exercises are provided for the most common conditions of the shoulder and knee. Substitute alternate exercises for "Basic Six" exercises as indicated.

The Leg Press combines all major muscles of the legs and buttocks along with the abdomen and low back. It is foundational in nature and recommended as an alternate to the squat to reduce risk and accommodate certain knee and back conditions. Direct advantages include all movements under the load of gear, especially standing from a seated position, and climbing a boat ladder or steps. The Knee Trio is a therapeutic alternative or supplemental exercise sequence to the Leg Press.

The Push Press and Plank incorporates muscles of the chest, shoulder and triceps along with the abdomen and low back. A combination of static and dynamic exercise, this movement provides a foundation of upper body strength, especially for women. You will benefit with arm strength for lifting and holding on firmly and enhanced ability to change direction while the body is in motion. The Shoulder Combo is a therapeutic alternative or supplemental exercise sequence for the Push Up portion of this exercise. You may still be able to perform the Plank position to work the chest without involving the shoulder.

The Ball Reach provides a unique combination of abdominal, low back, hamstring and gluteus (buttocks) strength. This exercise also includes some integration of static chest and shoulder. Swimming, staying in one place during strong currents, putting on fins in the water, and back-roll entry are just a few examples that contribute to diving.

The Pullover combines the chest, shoulders, triceps, and abdominal muscles and expands the chest lengthwise improving breathing capacity. The ability to safely reach over and behind your head and back is the greatest benefit of this exercise. The Shoulder Combo is a therapeutic alternative or supplemental exercise sequence for the Pullover.

Dolphins integrate low back, hamstrings, gluteus and abdominal muscles in a prone position using the lower body as resistance instead of the upper body. Walking backwards, kicking through strong currents, turtle swimming, wave action, surf and sand are all conditions where this exercise will enhance performance and prevent injury.

A Row of any fashion incorporates five muscles in the back and shoulder and is assisted by the biceps to perform pulling activities. Your large back muscles as a group, are second only in size to those of the legs and likewise apply to foundational strength. The row requires a greater demand for oxygen than other upper body exercises and you will notice a slightly higher heart rate during this resistance training interval.

Knee Trio: Bun Wrapper, Wall Sit with Ball Squeeze (See images in lieu of leg press)

The Bun Wrapper is a combination of leg raises throughout the full compliment of hip rotation, which targets the medial muscles of the gluteus and provides weight bearing work to improve bone density in the hip and low back. The Wall Sit with the Ball Squeeze between the knees is a static variation to the Leg Press.

Shoulder Combo: Internal / External Rotation and Horizontal Rotation for the Rotator Cuff (See images in lieu of push ups and/or pullovers)

These exercises are provided to both rehabilitate and prevent injury of the shoulder.

Interval Training

ScubaFit™ comes to life with the unique application of "interval training". Typically used to enhance running performance, interval training is applied to your resistance training in this workout. Instead of counting repetitions, you will perform timed sets of each exercise.

To prevent injury, begin your ScubaFit™ workout with a six-minute warm-up of aerobic exercise (i.e., walking outdoors, treadmill, elliptical, bicycle). When performing resistance training exercises, remember to breathe properly. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Do not hold your breath at any time under resistance and exhale on the exertion. Do not rest between exercises unless absolutely necessary. Remember to check your heart rate about halfway through each Resistance Training Interval. Practice counting your pulse manually so you will be confident checking your heart rate while diving.

Each "Basic Six" Exercise Sequence will take six minutes to complete. If you are performing an exercise requiring a single leg or single arm movement, perform each side for one full minute. Replacing pullovers or push-ups with the "Shoulder Combo or replacing Leg Press with the therapeutic "Knee Trio will require from six to 12 minutes to complete.

After your warm-up, perform your first resistance training sequence consisting of one-minute intervals for each exercise. Then return to aerobic training for six minutes in your 70% training heart rate.

Perform a second full sequence of resistance training intervals followed by a second session of aerobic training. Continue to train in your 70% training heart rate for this aerobic interval.

Repeat two more resistance training intervals alternating with two more six-minute aerobic training sessions in your 80% heart rate training zone.

Your goal is to complete four full intervals of both resistance training and aerobic training in less than 90-minutes. If all your intervals are in the six-minute range, you will finish within an hour. Alternate exercises require about an hour and 15-minutes.

ScubaFit™ is designed to strengthen and condition the body in a safe manner. Consistency and longevity are most important with this workout. Establish a good foundation by training all year to support recreational and vacation diving activities. Now, pack a ScubaFit™ gear bag with a stopwatch or timer, hydrating drink, and a towel. Put on your favorite dive t-shirt and take your enthusiasm for scuba diving to the gym. It’s time to get ScubaFit™


Be a FitDiver™! Let diving be your motivation to embrace a healthy lifestyle. This upbeat seminar relates fitness to real life diving scenarios, provides sample workouts and extended Q & A to help you discover what fitness program is right for you. Exercise guidelines are presented with an emphasis on individual goals and interests. The message is appropriate for all ages and experience from new fitness enthusiasts to athletes, those with orthopedic challenges and includes specifics for men and women. Divers of all levels will learn training applications and fitness tips to improve diving performance.


Dive Into Fitness Presentation
May 30th, 2009 12:00 Noon
Scuba Show 2009
Long Beach Convention Center
Long Beach, California


Written by Gretchen Ashton, San Diego, California. Photo Credit: Szilvia Gogh